Baseball: Pitt earns first-ever ACC win, but drops two of three at North Carolina

Pitt baseball opened its ACC schedule with a series loss in Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend, but managed to pick up a comeback win to avoid a sweep at the hands of the No. 17 Tar Heels (10-4, 2-1 ACC). 

Pitt (5-7, 1-2 ACC) also ended its five-game losing skid with its win Sunday after the Panthers dropped both sides of Saturday’s doubleheader. 

Game 1: UNC 9, Pitt 5

The Pitt Panthers faced a eight-run deficit early in Saturday’s contest against North Carolina, one they couldn’t overcome as Pitt lost its first-ever ACC conference game. 

The Tar Heels’ big blow came in the first inning when Joe Dudek hit a two-out grand slam. North Carolina added runs in the second and fourth innings for its 8-0 lead.

Matt Wotherspoon (2-2) started for Pitt and took the loss after he allowed eight runs to cross on 12 hits.

Trent Thornton (4-0) earned the win as he shut the Panthers out for the game’s first four innings until Pitt broke through with four runs in the fifth. Thornton struck out six batters in six innings of work.

Pitt  had chances to get close to the Tar Heels but failed to capitalize in the 9-5 loss.

The Panthers’ four-run fifth came via two runs walked in by Thornton with the bases loaded, and a two-run single from Casey Roche into center field.

But Boo Vazquez was thrown out at home when he was caught between bases to end the frame after the next hitter singled to right. 

In the bottom of the sixth, North Carolina extended its lead to five at 9-4 when Skye Bolt scored on a fielder’s choice after he reached base with a leadoff walk.

Pitt then failed again to capitalize on a scoring chance when Steven Shelinsky, Jr. struck out with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. Pitt got a run back in the eighth with Matt Johnson scoring on a basehit by Dyland Wolsonovich, but that was the last of Pitt’s scoring. 

Game 2: UNC 2, Pitt 1

Rhys Aldenhoven took the mound for head coach Joe Jordano in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader and fared much better than Wotherspoon. Aldenhoven lasted six innings and allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four. 

But the senior from Victoria, Australia, received just one run in support from Pitt’s offense and Aldenhoven (1-1) took the losing decision. 

North Carolina started the scoring in the second when Aldenhoven walked lead-off man Tyler Ramirez, who then scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Massardo to stake Tar Heel starter Benton Moss (2-1) to a 1-0 lead. 

The lead was doubled two frames later when Parks Jordan started the bottom of the fourth off with a double to left-center field and later scored on Landon Lassiter’s two-out basehit.

Pitt didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning with leadoff man Stephen Vranka reaching base, stealing second and scoring on a knock from Boo Vazquez. 

That was the blemish on Moss’ outing, though, as the junior right-hander tossed seven innings of one-run baseball, giving up just five hits and striking out 12. 

After Pitt scored its run, the Tar Heels’ bullpen did not allow a single Panther on base in the final three innings to lock down the victory. 

Game 3: Pitt 6, UNC 4

In the finale of Pitt’s first conference series as a member of the ACC, the Panthers earned their first road win against a ranked opponent in nearly 11 years with some timely hitting and costly miscues on North Carolina’s behalf. 

Multiple wild pitches allowed Pitt runners to move up 90 feet, and the Panthers capitalized. 

In the seventh, Dylan Wolsonovich tied the contest at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Matt Johnson from third base. 

The next inning, a wild pitch moved Jordan Frabasilio and Eric Hess to second and third base with one out. Johnson followed with a basehit through the right side to score Frabasilio, and Hess scored on a sacrifice fly by A.J. Lardo to put Pitt up 6-4. 

Out of the bullpen, Hobie Harris worked the final two and one-third innigns to close out Pitt’s first-ever conference win.